The Concept(ion) of Death

Death is a reality - the only reality in life.

This column is about the concept of death: Thoughts, ideas, writings, scientific studies, literature, and musings that attempt to understand death. How has the concept been understood in our history and across different cultures and disciplines?

Is death the end? Or as some say, is it a beginning?

If so, then from where does it begin?

Is death one homogenous entity – the same for everyone or are there multiple deaths…Is death a phenomena with diversity and variation?

David Eagleman has said in Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives:

“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”

The writers in this column are interested in more…not just examining the different deaths – the physical, the social and the eternal - but also concerned about different kinds of deaths, and all its aspects, including its impact on those who continue to live.

What happens before we die and after we die; to us, to our loved ones?

If life is a journey, then how do we face death? Is death the end of a journey? If so, then when does death begin - when we become sick or when we start aging - at what age OR does the process of death begin the moment when we are born or does dying begin at our conception?

But the end of a journey is a destination. Right?.

Most of what we know about –geographical destinations is known through experiences of explorers who have travelled to those places and returned with stories. Can we do that with death?

Does the metaphor of life as a journey fail us when we use it to understand death?

Are there tools, methods, and lenses that can help us understand death better?

Or will the reality of death always remain –a mere conjecture - a concept?